If you have a lift at a property, then you will know that they can be daunting pieces of kit to look after and manage. There can be a whole lot of technical-talk along with people’s fear of using and paying for them all coming to the surface.
However, like a lot of things in property management, the trick is to get the right balance; to not necessarily know all the answers yourself, but know those that do and make sure the right questions are being asked.
The Basics of Managing Them
We have an overview resource here of lifts in general, and a handy ‘CAP’ acronym. Firstly, get your C for compliance sorted, before then looking at the A actions you need to take to see the lift safely running.
This then all ends in a P for procedures and getting in place the documentation for the safe use and operation of the lift, after all they are risky things.
Here are 5 more detailed nuts-and-bolts issues that you need to address as a property manager directly involved with them. This is more hands-on to make sure you have all the right factors nicely in place:
1. The Right Cover
The main piece of legislation governing the safe operation of lifts is the Lifting Operations & Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, often abbreviated to ‘LOLER’.
Of course, there are other general duties under, say, general health and safety regulations, but this is the bedrock.
There’s further information here, but in short, the relevant duty-holder needs to ensure elevators are thoroughly examined and judged to be safe by a competent person, which boils down to what is known as a statutory inspection every 6 month.
This extends to 12 months for non-passenger lifts, but within this context we’ll assume passenger ones, i.e. the idea is that the lift is moving people up and down a commercial or residential budding,
As an aside, you will often need to arrange separate engineering insurance for the actual lift-kit, as it isn’t normally included on the main buildings cover. This may also involve other M&E pieces of kit such as heating gear as well.
So, make sure this is being arranged satisfactorily – which, if it is, then they will usually arrange this 6-month statutory inspection themselves at an additional cost to the premium. So in that respect, it’s all arranged for you, assuming of course that the correct insurance is in place.
However, there may be those circumstances where for some reason insurance is not in place, or they don’t require them, in which case you will need to source and instruct a separate contractor for this. Just make sure they are suitably qualified for such ‘LOLER’ statutory inspections.
Once you have these in place, make a note that these are only the minimum cover, and they may recommend that more substantial inspections are completed every 1, 5, or even 10 year periods. This will depend upon the age and condition of the lift, and the suspected issue that might arise.
Therefore, these needs bottoming out, ideally by chatting through with the inspector on site and seeing what the good or bad news is. And even if they do suggest these, see whether this is just good advice or if they are saying for definite, and the sort of issues that may arise.
2. The Best Service
This is more of an obvious one; having a suitably competent lift contractor to maintain the lifts, which is separate to the above point about statutory inspections which people get confused with, the idea is that there is an independent view of things; in reality meaning that there are two contractors and inspections always involved.
And just be careful about the type of contract set-up here, as you can find a default position of the company who installed the lift not necessarily the better one longer term.
The length of contract and number of visits needs addressing; often a few years with at least 6 monthly visits as well.
Then seeing what level of cover this includes, whether just minimum service with added costs for repairs and call-outs, or a full bells-and-whistles one with everything included.
It may be worth bringing in a specialist consultant to get this agreed, and then clarifying how they will practically do this, including service sheets being left on site or sent, who to arrange access with, and agreed down-and-response times.
3. The Planned Works
This seems obvious at first but can soon develop into major issues later.
It links with the above two points, i.e. carefully looking at what both the statutory and service inspections needs doing in terms of any repairs and future planned works to the lifts.
Even if everything is okay now, delve deeper to see what the future holds many decades as well as years ahead. Ideally chat through with them on site and get a judgement call from them if needs be as well as formal reports and quotes afterwards.
And make sure this relates to the rest of the property as well, so any planned refurbishment in the future and DDA allowances for disabled persons.
Plus, when you do get bad news about major repairs and replacement, then go deeper and see whether something more cheap-and-cheerful is possible, and if you can involve other contractors rather than the current service ones.
4. The Correct Connection
It’s important to remember that lifts ideally need to have a connected-signal somewhere - although not essential, highly recommended.
This is often through a phone or internet line to, for example, a remote monitoring station as part of the lift contractor’s service or a separate one. This basically means that if the lift breaks down, then someone inside can press the emergency button to alert someone off-site to come to the rescue.
If these lines do exist, then make sure they work, and don’t let a simple thing like not paying the BT phone bill mean the line goes down and no emergency cover is in place.
There may also be lots or technical talk about how this connection can take place, for example an ‘auto-dialer’. Although some lifts, particularly older and lower-risk ones were never even built with these in place; it could still be an additional add-on service to investigate.
The other form of connection is also with any fire-detection or alarm in the building, in that if the building alarm went off then it should signal the lift to automatically move to a safe ground-floor position and not be in use.
5. The Proper Procedures
The final stage is getting all the right procedures and paperwork in place, not only an important factor of any building service, but particularly so with a potentially risky passenger lift.
It’s best to think of this in two halves, the first being actual signs and notices on-site. These may be standard ones placed outside each lift opening on each level saying ‘do not use in emergency’, or a bespoke one inside near the buttons saying what to do and who to contact should the lift stop working.
This is even more essential to have if the lift has no remote connection as above, and therefore there needs to be a policy in place that no one should use the lift alone with no one else in the building out-of-hours just in case they get stuck with no way of letting others know (other than happening to have a mobile phone on them which would hopefully have reception in the lift at all levels).
As an aside, if there is no remote connection then often the lift still has a manual alarm to sound on site from an inside button which will need regular weekly sounding-checks completed and recorded, and relevant details on the notices on how to use.
The second half of all these procedures is general communication with users and other relevant people within the building. This might mean a full-on Lift Policy, or at least referenced in a general Building Guide, with practical details of how to use and what to do in an emergency.
A common issue to address is what happens when people do get trapped in the lift if it does break down. Even with correct remote connection, it may take the lift-contractor or emergency services up to half an hour to arrive, in which case no one else should be trying to tinker around with the lift to get it going or try and get people out.
This can then dovetail in with other building functions which relate to the lift that everyone needs to be aware of from an operations perspective, for example how not to use for a fire evacuation, special arrangements for disabled persons to use, making an allowance for other vulnerable people like children being around the area, and what items can and can’t be placed in here, for example moving-in furniture.
Lifting Things to a Higher Level
If you’re involved in the actual operation and management of lifts at properties, whether you’re an appointed property manager or an owner or even occupier stuck with these within your liable-area, then these above five factors are essential to get to grips with.
This will make sure you not only know the practical servicing and maintenance requirements, but also the follow-up paperwork and procedures, as after all they are serious pieces of kit that need to be safely used.
Of course, you’ll need specialists involved here all the way, but someone somewhere will need to get to grips with these five essentials in order to make sure everything is tied together nicely.
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